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Lisa Berry, who served three years in the Army, is enrolled at Calhoun Community College.

An Army veteran has started something most people begin decades earlier in their lives.

At 53, Lisa Berry enrolled in her first year of full-time college.

Berry, a native of Manassas, Virginia, went from high school to the Army. She served three years and met her ex-husband in Korea before leaving the military after three years as a private first class.

She worked as a bookkeeper for about 20 years and raised two sons.

In December, she had surgery after suffering from a shredded bone spur that caused a tear in her Achilles tendon.

She spent six months in physical therapy at the Veterans Affairs Center in Huntsville, and was so impressed with the services she received, she decided to pursue a new career.

“I fell in love with the people and the job,” she said.

This semester, she is officially a full-time student at Calhoun Community College, pursuing a two-year associate degree in physical therapy assistance.

Her course load is comprised of classes in English, algebra, psychology, and anatomy and physiology, the latter being the most challenging.

“All the body parts, all the muscles, all the nerves,” said Berry, who graduated from high school in 1986 and has not cracked an academic book since.

“I am the oldest (student in class) that I know of,” she said. “I thought it would be strange, but it’s not.”

Her fellow students “treat me just like anybody else, so I was very pleased with that.”

She takes advantage of tutors and study groups and uses flash cards to help memorize things.

Also new to her is the use of a laptop computer. In the past, she has used only a desktop.

“It has not been all cupcakes, for sure,” Berry said.

But her fellow students and teachers have been “really great,” she said.

Her advice to other people who may think they are too old to try something new is encouraging.

“Go for it,” she said. “I have been amazingly, excitedly happy. I finally get to do what I dreamt.”

When she graduates from the program, Berry hopes to work as a full-time physical therapy assistant, and she already has a special group of patients in mind.

“I hope to be able to work with vets,” she said, adding that she plans to work “as long as I can. I love to be busy. I enjoy working with people.”

Currently, while in school, Berry works part-time as the assistant activity coordinator for Thrive, an assisted living facility in south Huntsville.

She has two adult sons who also live in Huntsville, Derek, 28, who works in retail, and Trevor, 24, who serves with the Alabama National Guard.

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